COTTON WEAVES THROUGH OUR LIVES by Jennifer Bearden, Extension Agent

You probably can’t go a day without touching cotton or a cotton byproduct. In 2007, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 7,099 bales of cotton were produced in our county. Each bale weighs about 480 pounds.

That’s enough cotton to make more than 1.5 million pairs of jeans or more than two billion $100 bills. That’s right. U.S. paper currency is 75 percent cotton. In 2009, we used more than 20,000 bales of cotton to produce our paper currency.

Cotton is produced in 17 states in the U.S., in an area called the cotton Belt. This stretches across the Southern U.S. from Virginia to California.

About 30 percent of our cotton is exported. Each cotton plant produces lint and seed. The lint is used to make fabrics, fishnets, coffee filters, tents and more. The cottonseed is important too. Cotton seed is separated into three products: oil, meal, and hulls. The oil is used in cooking and the meal and hulls are used as livestock, poultry and fish feed. The total economic value of cotton in the U.S. exceeds $120 billion.

Cotton is being planted this month in Okaloosa County. In a couple of weeks, you can see the cotton seedlings emerging from the ground. They will grow tall and flower. The flower will fall off and leave a cotton boll in which the cotton fibers will form.

Cotton will be harvested in the early fall in Okaloosa County. You can see the big bales of cotton sitting in the field in north Okaloosa County. Just remember, each bale can make 215 pairs of jeans or 1,217 T-shirts or even 313,600 $100 bills. Cotton is important to our county, our country and our world!

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